Three Minutes: A Lengthening (2022) Movie Review
There are no filmed interviews, only the voices of people who were there, or who know people who were there, or who know things about Poland in the thirties, especially the Jewish experience. Occasionally Helena Bonham-Carter reads scholarly material that is presumably a compendium of things the director and her team learned during the project, but are not attributable to any particular interviewee. The footage is slowed down, frozen, zoomed. Sometimes it is slowly cycled back and forth (creating a kind of pendulum effect) when an interviewee talks about their personal knowledge of a particular face in a crowd. While this person is talking, we may wonder which faces they are talking about, although we usually have a pretty good idea; the arc of the back-and-forth pendulum shortens until we fixate on the person and the frozen image, capturing a moment in time and holding it.
The word “granular” is usually used as a metaphor to suggest focus and thoroughness, but it literally applies in this case. When we hear a witness talk about what happened to one of the two Lions of Judah that once stood at the door of a synagogue, or when Carter reads observations on the social and economic aspects of the colors that we sees on women’s clothes, or when we learn about what the difference between boys’ hats tells us about how much money their families probably had, we look at film grain clots in tiny sections of images individual. We might as well be in a museum looking at an impressionist painting: drops of celluloid instead of paint.
We know how this story ended, historically speaking. When the war ended, there were only 100 Jews left in the neighborhood, the rest having been displaced and murdered en masse by the Nazis and their accomplices. The final section of the film deals with the deportation of the community in a manner consistent with the rest of the film.
There is an underlying benevolence and generosity in the very idea of making a film like this, although if such emotions were inherent in the production, we would never know it from the way the material is presented. It has been described as a forensic exercise, but this adjective is loaded with associations from forensic science. “Three Minutes” shows us people and things that no longer exist, but the respectful and innovative approach of just three minutes of footage brings to life, briefly, a community on the verge of extinction.